Aluminum isn’t just for soda cans — it’s a critical clean energy material. The metal’s exceptionally light weight and durability make it an essential component of solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicles. As the world scales up these green technologies, demand for aluminum is expected to grow by as much as 40 percent by 2030, compared to a 2020 baseline.
But aluminum production isn’t environmentally benign. As noted in a new report from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the global aluminum industry causes some 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year — a little less than three times Australia’s annual emissions — as well as widespread air and water contamination.
To ensure that the harms of aluminum expansion don’t outweigh the benefits, the report calls for stricter pollution standards from the U.S. government, an acceleration of of less-polluting smelting technologies, and an increase in aluminum recycling rates — so that less new aluminum needs to be made in the first place.